Why George W. Bush was one winner of last night’s debate

First, a PSA: Jay and I, along with Aaron Gould Sheinin, are about to record a video chat discussing last night’s debate. We’ll both be posting that on our respective blogs around noon.

But before we get to that, one more thought about the debate:

You could argue that the winner of last night’s debate was George W. Bush. Before you tell me that’s ridiculous, let me explain:

One reason Mitt Romney was so quick to agree with President Obama on so many issues is that his clear goal for the night was not to damage his candidacy by not appearing “presidential” or believable as the commander-in-chief. He didn’t want to come across as a war-monger — as I wrote last night, that seemed to have been drilled into his head by his aides — and he made that point several times. He still has to win this election on the economy, and his aim regarding foreign policy was not to provide a distraction from that. I think he did that.

Another reason is that foreign policy is one area on which voters have tended to rate the president rather favorably. But perhaps most important, he couldn’t put much daylight between himself and Obama because Obama’s foreign policy has dove-tailed with Bush’s in many ways. This allowed Romney to hit on many themes that resonate with the Rand Paul/less-interventionist wing of the GOP, without having to disavow some of the principles that Republican neocons believe.

The prison at Guantanamo Bay? Still open. Civilian trials for terror suspects? All but abandoned. Tellingly, neither topic came up last night.

Troops in Iraq? Withdrawn on the timeline to which the Bush administration agreed (and, contra Obama last night, only after negotiations to keep some number of troops in Iraq broke down). A bias toward letting predominantly Muslim nations, in particular, choose their own governments? Demonstrated from Tunisia to Libya to Egypt. Benign (or not so benign) neglect of both the U.S. dollar and our neighbors in Latin America? Continued.

Obama has sounded different than Bush, to be sure. And he did preside over the killing of Osama bin Laden. But the deaths of our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi demonstrate that killing bin Laden did not decapitate al-Qaida, just as the Bush administration often argued it wouldn’t.

One difference between Bush and Obama has been the latter’s approach to harsh interrogation techniques. But instead of torturing captives, or coming close to it, Obama’s policy has been to kill them — and possibly innocent people nearby — via drone strikes. An intellectually honest antiwar left would be marching in the streets about that. And from the right’s perspective, one critique I’ve heard about Romney last night was that he missed an opportunity to point out that drone strikes make it much harder to gather intelligence about the terrorists we’re still very much at war with.

In many ways, though, Obama’s presidency has served to validate many of Bush’s foreign policies. You don’t hear that often, from either side, but it was one reason for the lack of fireworks last night.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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68 comments Add your comment

southpaw

October 23rd, 2012
10:20 am

Bush commented a few weeks ago that he’s kept a low profile because he had gotten “out of the swamp” and wanted to stay out. Only one of last night’s contestants will have a chance to do the same. Whether either of them will TAKE the chance to stay out remains to be seen.

sailfish

October 23rd, 2012
10:22 am

I disagree, how many wars has obama started? Cheney wanted to take out the iranian nuke sites and even now openly advocates torture. The missile system bush & co. wanted to deploy in poland has been cancelled – it was purely provocative and had no strategic value. Bush gave up on finding bin laden, obama went after him. Obama is much more strategic and more mindful of diplomacy, bush pivoted to that in his final two years by ignoring cheney, better late than never.

Real Athens

October 23rd, 2012
10:25 am

“Mission Accomplished”

nelson

October 23rd, 2012
10:25 am

There is one big loser, the stock market is selling off big time. I am in the market. We need the captains of industry in action. They, the economic 1% say they will put hiring on hold with Obama care and his plans to “sock it to the rich” income tax wise.
We need a real leader, someone who is successful in the business world as well as politically. An economically struggling U.S. will have those middle east parasites yapping at our heals.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

October 23rd, 2012
10:32 am

Real Athens

October 23rd, 2012
10:33 am

The “Captains of Industry” are following the same script they did after the reforms of FDR. The president they referred to as “that man”.

Study history or be damned to repeat it.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

October 23rd, 2012
10:34 am

Kyle, that is ridiculous!

iggy

October 23rd, 2012
10:34 am

Dow down 237 pts….Thanks Obama.

iggy

October 23rd, 2012
10:35 am

And Obama wants to “put in more FDR type programs”.

I think Obama has Romnesia.

One perspective....

October 23rd, 2012
10:36 am

Yep. From the Patriot act to the troop surge(s), there really hasn’t been that much difference between Bush and Obama. It is clear that once a candidate gets into office, the “true state of the world” is revealed to him and what was easy (”I’ll close Guantanamo”) becomes much harder in reality.

Obama has pushed much further with drones against terrorists, but has pulled back from Israel (no matter what lies spill out of his mouth on the subject). He never visited Israel, and all he managed to there is throw a little more gasoline on the situation. Notice how he mentioned rockets from Hamas without mentioning that they were raining out of Gaza… and yet during these last 4 years he CLEARLY pushed the idea that Israel is to blame for the stalemate in Israeli/Palestine peace process. He can acknowledge and denounce Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but can’t bring himself to denounce violence rocketing out of the Gaza Strip?

He pretty much sat on the fence for the uprisings in Egypt/Tunisia/Libya, no matter how much he wants to declare that he was “with” the citizens in those uprisings… just as he is sitting on the fence over Syria now. Good? Bad? I think it is a little of both.

Here is the only/major thing that I can give Obama credit: He has successfully worked sanctions against Iran. Time will tell if it is enough to deter Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Overall, this just shows that a President’s hands are more tied that they would like to admit, and that blaming GWB for all the worlds ills was misplaced rage.. and hypocritical if you don’t practice the same rage against the guy who dovetailed into GWB.

md

October 23rd, 2012
10:39 am

I wonder how many of the masses were fooled by obama’s insistence that he wanted everybody out of Iraq while he also insisted that Romney didn’t. I’m guessing there are many that will believe that even though Penetta negotiated up to the last minute to keep troops in country only to be rebuked by Iraq…

Not to mention his claim that he ended the war in Iraq…….that’s just more of his “me” persona, especially knowing that Bush signed that agreement and all he had to do was see it through.

Pizzaman

October 23rd, 2012
10:39 am

I’ve always been amazed how much GWB has been ignored by both sides, especially the Repubs. The Dems almost “idolize” Bill, with all his faults, but both ignore W.

I personally think the man and his whole administration should not only be in jail but under it for all the Constitutional violations (too many to list here but so Tiburius wont have to guess here’s a few: 9/11, signing statements, the Iraq war) but the very first thing Pelosi said was the Dems had no intention of bringing impeachment charges against him. Why?

Since then he’s only noticed for the many policies the Obama administration has kept in place and his absence from public life. Incomprehensible for the man who won all that “political capital” in 2004. But last night he was in the room.

md

October 23rd, 2012
10:41 am

“how many wars has obama started?”

Not the issue, especially since he had the choice to leave Afghanistan the day he took office…….that became his war the minute he made the choice to stay AND double down……….

Real Athens

October 23rd, 2012
10:41 am

The DJIA has a year-to-date of 12.19 percent. The S & P 500 is up 16.44

Perhaps Wall Street is afraid of a Romney presidency

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/economics-blog/2012/aug/29/democrats-better-wall-street-republicans

md

October 23rd, 2012
10:44 am

“The missile system bush & co. wanted to deploy in poland has been cancelled – it was purely provocative and had no strategic value.”

Interesting, that’s certainly NOT what Poland is saying:

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/08/08/polish-president-blasts-obama-on-missile-defense/

Tom

October 23rd, 2012
10:44 am

Remember: Obama had no part in the killing of Bin Laden, but Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. Riiiight.

Kyle Wingfield

October 23rd, 2012
10:46 am

One perspective @ 10:36: “Overall, this just shows that a President’s hands are more tied that they would like to admit, and that blaming GWB for all the worlds ills was misplaced rage.”

Yep.

Just Saying..

October 23rd, 2012
10:46 am

It’s Bush’s fault…no, credit…fault, I say…no no no..Bush was right, so Obama’s wrong..no, that’s not it, imitation is flattery…Bush lives!…Bush’t time is so over….fault/credit/fault/credit/default/credit/swap, I tell you…

Got it.

Pizzaman

October 23rd, 2012
10:46 am

For those of you who support the “Bootrz policy” that the market actually cares who’s in the WH, which he stated on his show Aug ‘11 when he said ” the market really dislikes the President. Look how low it is”.

When he said that the market was about 9900. In the last year it had slowly risen to 13,500 =/-. So Niel, iggy et all down 237 has nothing to do with the President. Just like up 3,500 over the last year has nothing to do with him either.

They BOTH suck

October 23rd, 2012
10:56 am

Kyle

Nice spin. This article should earn you a guest host spot on the Bill Oliely show…………

:-)

Just Saying..

October 23rd, 2012
10:56 am

“Just like up 3,500 over the last year has nothing to do with him either.”

But as Tib often reminds those with retirement’s dependent on 401ks: “stock market doesn’t matter”

Pizzaman

October 23rd, 2012
10:57 am

Comment on last night: Forget “Romnisa”, Romney’s been “Obamanized”!

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 23rd, 2012
10:59 am

OK, Kyle, I see your point, but think it is a bit of a stretch – even for you.

Your best point was what Romney should have said about drone strikes.

Romney looked calm and collected, while Obama looked and behaved desperate.

Kyle Wingfield

October 23rd, 2012
11:04 am

TBS @ 10:56: It’s not spin, because I actually wasn’t the biggest fan of some of Bush’s foreign policy. For instance, and I think I’ve said this here before, but just in case: At the time, I didn’t think the Iraq invasion was wise.

But think about it: Obama has ended the war on terror in name only; when you are killing people halfway around the world on a weekly (at least) basis with drone strikes, and stand to have troops in Afghanistan halfway through your potential second term, and still have Gitmo open, etc., you are still fighting that war.

Republicans don’t talk about this because they don’t want to admit Obama hasn’t deviated too far from the Bush course. Democrats don’t talk about this because … they don’t want to admit Obama hasn’t deviated too far from the Bush course.

Progressive Humanist

October 23rd, 2012
11:06 am

DOW up 6,600 from 6,500 to 13,110 since Obama took office (it’s doubled). Thanks, Mr. President.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 23rd, 2012
11:06 am

“But as Tib often reminds those with retirement’s dependent on 401ks: “stock market doesn’t matter””

You may try the Obama game of completely ignoring my statements, Just Saying, but you won’t get away with it.

I have NEVER said the “stock market doesn’t matter”.

I have said that the stock market isn’t an accurate indicator of the nation’s overall economic health.

You’re a lot like Obama – you love to tell people what others think, even if you don’t really know what they think.

flagboy?

October 23rd, 2012
11:07 am

Watching the debate last night, if you didn’t know anything about either guy, it would have appeared as though Romney was leading and Obama was trying to close the gap. . .

I still think Obama wins Ohio. . . . but it’s a helluva lot closer than I ever would have thought it would be 3 months ago.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

October 23rd, 2012
11:07 am

once a candidate gets into office, the “true state of the world” is revealed to him

I agree…..and that is when their hair starts turning gray.

Scooter

October 23rd, 2012
11:07 am

Heck, I just love how the left remains silent about The Obama’s use of drones to summarily execute two American citizens in Yemen.

Reality

October 23rd, 2012
11:08 am

Since Obama has been in office, the DOW has gone UP by around 2000 points.

THANKS OBAMA!

flagboy?

October 23rd, 2012
11:08 am

It is funny how Gitmo is NEVER mentioned anymore. . .

They BOTH suck

October 23rd, 2012
11:08 am

Kyle

So the “Arab Spring” which many on the right blame Obama for is Bush’s doing?

Can’t have it both ways. When it is good, hark back to Bush. When it is bad, blame it on Obama.

I fully understand that both sides do this and do it on a regular basis, however it seems to be a “spin” from the CBS poll of undecideds.

While I doubt last night moves the needle much at all, I highly doubt that if the CBS poll were reversed you would have been writing about Bush.

SBinF

October 23rd, 2012
11:09 am

Kyle, you owe me a new keyboard. I spit coffee all over mine after reading your blog title.

flagboy?

October 23rd, 2012
11:09 am

Finn McCool (The System isn’t Broken; It’s Fixed)

October 23rd, 2012
11:07 am
once a candidate gets into office, the “true state of the world” is revealed to him

I agree…..and that is when their hair starts turning gray.
________________________________

I’m sure there must be a side-by-side comparison of what Presidents look like the day they take office and the day they leave. . .all of them seem to age so much over those years. . .

Kyle Wingfield

October 23rd, 2012
11:13 am

TBS: The CBS poll is not very instructive, because it doesn’t tell us whether anyone changed their minds because of the debate. “Winning the debate” does not necessarily equal “winning more votes,” as we saw after the second presidential debate. That’s the only thing that matters right now.

And, for the record, although I had high hopes for the Arab Spring, it doesn’t appear to be turning out very well. So I’m not sure who’s eager to claim credit for it. But I do think there’s a link running from Bush’s “freedom doctrine” to those uprisings.

Easy to tell who won the debate

October 23rd, 2012
11:14 am

By the lack of comments on this post it is easy to see that President Obama sent the regular posters away with their tails tucked. No sensible person can say that Mittens won and when given the opportunity to draw first blood on Libya, he just shrank away. President Obama demonstrated he is the Commander in Chief, the only army Mittens can direct is his own family.
#horsesandbayonets

Reality

October 23rd, 2012
11:14 am

Kyle,

Once again you are reaching so far out on a limb…. don’t you ever get tired?

Obama has been winding down the many military conflicts started under Bush. Did he want to pull out faster? Yes. However, he is a brilliant man and evaluated each conflict seperately to make the best decision for the US.

By pulling out of these ridiculous conflicts all over, we will be saving money as well as saving American lives.

This was certainly NOT the Bush plan!

MarkV

October 23rd, 2012
11:15 am

President Obama has not started a war. That should count as enough difference from GWB in the foreign policy area.

md

October 23rd, 2012
11:16 am

I think those touting the stock market numbers are over-playing their hand…….corp profits are a reflection of income, which has a relationship with expenses…….some of you need to remember that we still have 23 million people unemployed………..they would be on the “expenses” side of the income statement, hence a “rise” in profits.

Kyle Wingfield

October 23rd, 2012
11:16 am

Also, want to know how many times Bush’s named was invoked last night … in a foreign-policy debate … four years after Obama branded McCain “Bush’s third term”? Twice. Once by each candidate. Both were related to economic policy.

Don’t you wonder just a little bit why Obama didn’t bring up Bush at all related to foreign policy? Think it might have something to do with what I wrote today?

They BOTH suck

October 23rd, 2012
11:17 am

Kyle

Thanks for the reply. I doubt it seriously had the poll been reversed, we would be discussing Bush, but I can’t read your mind.

Hope the exchange with Bookman went well. Will check it out later.

Peace

Kyle Wingfield

October 23rd, 2012
11:18 am

Reality @ 11:14: Obama withdrew from Iraq exactly on Bush’s timetable. After negotiating, unsuccessfully, to try to keep a small number of forces there … just as Bush had recommended.

I think some of y’all see this as my trying to defend Bush. That’s not my point. See my 11:04.

Georgia

October 23rd, 2012
11:19 am

“Bush a winner in debate.

You’re not going to open with that are you?

MrLiberty

October 23rd, 2012
11:21 am

Bush was a winner because Obama is serving basically his 3rd term and Romney is basically the same as the two of them on all the critical issues that are destroying this country. They all love the Federal Reserve and its dollar-destroying policies, they all love empire and wasting trillions abroad fighting wars to advance the empire while undermining our security, they all love the war on drugs (the war against personal freedom), they all love the police state, they all love the destruction of the constitution, the bill of rights, and the Magna Carta that the Patriot Act, NDAA, Military Tribunals Act and others ushered it, they all love big government, they all love big military spending, they all love controlling people’s access to healthcare resources, they all love bailing out bankers, private companies that have failed, and other friends, and plenty more similarities.

As with all of the debates and likely this election, the losers will as always be the citizens of this rapidly failing empire of ours.

@@

October 23rd, 2012
11:31 am

An inconvenient truth they DON’T wanna get behind, Kyle.

Needless to say, they’re looking like the unprincipled hypocrits that they are for failing to acknowledge truths about Obama’s escalation of Bush’s policies.

Indiscriminate drone attacks are O.K. when Obama’s the murderer.

YES HE CAN!!!

schnirt

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 23rd, 2012
11:32 am

As to polls, the CNN poll was far more instructive.

Who won the debate? 48% Obama, 40% Romney.

HOWEVER, the numbers within are more telling.

60% perceive Romney as being Presidential.

Who was the more likeable? Obama 48%, Romney 47%.

Who changed their vote based on this debate? 24% changed to Obama, 25% changed to Romney, and 50% had no change.

The key words coming away from this debate?

No change in perceptions.

jconservative

October 23rd, 2012
11:33 am

Based on reading the transcript of last night’s debate expect a President Romney to appoint Zbigniew Brzezinski as White House National Security Advisor.

I trust Dan Senor did not quit his day job.

A moderate Republican Romney won the Republican nomination for president.
A moderate Democratic Romney just finished the last of three debates with President Obama.
Historically all candidates tend to move to the center. I do not recall any candidate moving past the center to the other side as Romney has done.

Apparently Romney believes that the American electorate has permanently moved to the left. And if a “moderate Democratic” Romney is elected President it may signal that that move by the electorate is permanent. Maybe we are, in fact, a nation of “socialist”.

MrLiberty

October 23rd, 2012
11:48 am

Tonight at 9pm on C-SPAN there will be a debate between the 4 other presidential candidates running for president. None of these folks is owned by Goldman Sachs, the military-industrial complex, the global banking cartel or any of the other folks that own and control Romney and Obama so there is a high likelyhood that real issues and real answers will be delivered. Tune in to find out what the non-establishment folks would like to do to fix america.

MrLiberty

October 23rd, 2012
11:50 am

Romney and Obama were of course invited to this debate (unlike the restricted circus events that they have been holding) and both of course declined. They are not interested in debating real issues or allowing the american public to find out that there are ideas and plans other than those that will enrich their puppetmasters.

tiredofIT

October 23rd, 2012
11:54 am

60% perceive Romney as being Presidential.
++
98% know Romney is the king of flip-flops. Why didn’t the war monger show up last night?